If you’ve ever watched a video, streamed something live, or joined a virtual event, odds are…you’ve seen a lower third in action. 

For marketers, lower thirds can be your BFF — they provide extra info in frame at just the right time, help introduce experts and speakers, and weave your branding effortlessly into every shot. Once you start seeing lower thirds, you’ll notice them everywhere. (You’re welcome. 😈) 

So, we’ve put together a complete overview, from design and structure to best practices and how to create high-quality, professional lower thirds. Let’s get into it. 

What is a lower third?

Lower thirds (aka L3s) are broadcast graphics that add additional context to the main image on screen — typically within the (you guessed it) lower third of the frame. However, they don’t necessarily need to be on the lower third of the frame! As with all things video, creativity is encouraged.

You’ll see lower thirds all over the place, like on: 

  • Live streams 
  • Films and documentaries
  • Virtual events and webinars 
  • Broadcast television
  • Social media (for example, encouraging viewers to like and subscribe)

When do you use a lower third? 

Lower thirds serve to provide secondary information that’s helpful for the shot, but not necessarily essential. It has to strike the right balance. First, identify primary information that may need its own graphic. 

Sometimes people put too much info in L3s, so it’s important to know what secondary information needs to go in your lower third. Less is generally more, and you can save wordier info for a standalone graphic or frame. 

Balancing primary and secondary information is a constant work in progress!

Remember: while lower thirds are important, they’re always going to be secondary information in comparison to your film, live stream, or webinar feed. Think of them as labels to strategically display secondary information like:

  • Names
  • Locations
  • Pull quotes 
  • Extra context
  • Social media handles
  • Secondary graphics 
  • Calls to action 

Pro-tip: Is the information best served on its own graphic to emphasize an important point? Or, is it best served as a secondary piece of information, adding necessary context to the main image or feed? The latter is preferred for an L3.

Examples of lower thirds 

At Vimeo, our awesome customers are using lower thirds in their videos, live streams, and programming allllllll the time. Take a look at LakePoint Community Church in Atlanta, who leveraged Vimeo’s OTT platform to live stream their 9am and 11am worship services. 

Faith channels can use L3s to pull out a quote from a specific reading or scripture passage. So, when a speaker instructs a congregation on a reading, the lower third displays the excerpt for several seconds to give viewers a chance to flip to the correct page or verse. 

Once the passage is read, they’ll give the entire text its own slide to reinforce the importance of the messaging.

Another great use case for lower thirds are sports live streams. L3s often appear on screen for the entire broadcast, teasing what’s up next. Sports broadcasters can also share nail-biting score updates during halftime without overshadowing the performers. 

However, more complex topics — such as a lineup or post-event commentary — are best expressed on its own graphic, not a lower third. 

What are the design elements of a lower third?

There are six key considerations to designing a killer L3: 

  1. Typography
  2. Colors and contrast
  3. Simple animations
  4. Closed captions 
  5. Branding 
  6. Timing 

Let’s dive deeper into each one. 


Typography for your lower thirds should be helpful and non-obtrusive. Legibility is key when considering your fonts. If you have any hesitation about legibility, opt for a safer font, like a san serif with minimal flourishes. 

Colors and contrast

L3s should not use the biggest, brightest colors in your brand book. Colors placed on top of each should be easy to read. To make sure your color palette and contrast is accessible, try using the a11y contrast checker

For live streaming content where you may not have control over the composition of the video, use high contrast colors. Save lower contrast colors for on-demand video. 


When it comes to animating your lower thirds, keep it simple. Save your flashiest animations for places where it’ll make a big impact. 

The golden rule for animations on lower thirds? Make sure the animation pauses long enough to allow the viewer to read through the content twice. Repeat the content of the lower third twice — like a long name or location — in your head and clock that time. That is how long it should be on screen as like a pause before it dissolves. 

For accessibility, follow the three-to-one principle with colors and animations. In other words, don’t use more than three colors or three flashes in one second. Be mindful that too many flashes can affect those with visual sensitivities, epilepsy, etc. 

Size and closed captions

Consider the location and sizing of both your typography and any closed captions that appear while your lower third flashes on screen. Another consideration is the location of closed captioning in your webinar, virtual event, or film — will the captions cut into your lower third and distract from the messaging? 

For virtual events and panel discussions, ask yourself: Are there differences in the size or position for live speakers versus other information or introductory information prior to a live session? 

If the treatments are different, they’ll need to be differentiated visually. Think primary and secondary fonts, or using certain graphics and elements specifically for speakers. 

You’ll also want to apply this principle to sports or news broadcasts, film segments, documentaries, and webinars. 


If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? For marketers, this age old adage transforms into: If viewers don’t leave your virtual event, webinar, or panel with your brand top of mind, can you even measure the impact? 

Including your brand kit and your logo is critically important. This will create a cohesive look and feel for your programming, and on a practical level, make it easier to templatize for the future. 

Again, simplicity of design will make all the difference. Your branding shouldn’t distract or overwhelm the useful messaging of your L3.  


The general rule of thumb is to display your lower third with enough time for viewers to read it twice. Some people are slower readers than others, so keep that in mind as you’re planning your run of show. 

Lower third structure

The structure of your lower third all depends on its primary storytelling purpose within your content. There are three tiers to note: 

  1. One-tier lower thirds: Usually used to identify a story that is being shown, or to show a presenter’s name.
  2. Two-tier L3s: Used most often to identify a person on screen. Often, the person’s name will appear on the first line, with their place of residence or a description below it. Two-tier lower thirds may also be used as “locators” to identify where a story is taking place
  3. Three-tier lower thirds: Add even more information! 

Best practices for creating a lower third for your live stream

Live streaming content happens on the fly. This means the composition of the space, the speaker’s movement and gestures, video inputs, and additional graphics can change and maintain a fluidity. Here are a few tips for using lower thirds in your next stream or event: 

  • Err on the side of higher opacity to maintain legibility throughout the stream
  • If you have auto-closed captioning enabled, test before your stream to ensure it doesn’t cut off your L3 
  • Triple check speaker names, titles, and companies! Typos happen, but you want to catch them before hundreds of people are looking at your work 

How to create lower thirds in Livestream Studio

For Vimeo Enterprise users, you can create a lower third directly in your stream.

  1. The first step to going live is creating your event on Vimeo. From your browser, go to your video manager, click New Video, then select Create live event
  2. Be sure to enter the name, date, time, and privacy of your event. You will have the opportunity to edit all these components in a later step if needed. Click Next to continue configuring your event.

  3. The live settings page is where you can configure and customize your stream as well as grab the event’s URL and embed code. There are three tabs: Event Tab, Appearance & Embed Tab, and Destinations Tab where you can configure all your event settings. 
  4. Next, if you are using an external encoder you can select Stream via RTMP. This will bring you to the live preview page, where you can get the stream URL and key for your encoder and monitor your stream on Vimeo. 
  5. You can also manage live features like chat, auto CC, polls, Q&A, graphics including lower thirds, before and during your stream.

For Livestream Studio users, visit Graphic Overlays in the Livestream Studio Help Center for more information.

How to create lower thirds with Vimeo

You can easily create lower thirds for your live events and webinars within our browser-based production tool. Here’s how:

  1. To start, create a recurring virtual event or webinar and choose to Stream with Vimeo, you’ll be brought into our browser-based broadcaster page
  2. On the broadcast page, click the Brand icon on the left side.
  3. Below the logo setting, you can preview your lower third.
  4. Click on Primary color to open the color window.
  5. You can either drag and drop the color selector, or insert your brand’s exact color codes (we show the HEX code by default; click HEX to switch to RGB and HSL code types if you prefer).
  6. Click out of the color picker and repeat these steps for your Secondary color
  7. Click Save.
  8. In order to show a lower third in your event or webinar, you’ll need to add it to a scene.

For more information, check out Vimeo’s help center on adding lower third graphic overlays

How to create lower thirds in After Effects

Adobe After Effects is a top choice for designers to create beautifully animated lower thirds and graphics for live or on-demand content. 

  1. To start creating a lower third graphic, draw a rectangle on a new shape layer. ­Click Fill swatch and select a color. This is the base for your L3.
  2. Next, animate the shape by selecting the shape layer in the timeline and press “U” twice on the keyboard to reveal its properties.
  3. Save and export your graphic to use in your live or on-demand content. 

Final notes

Lower thirds add a simple, helpful touch to your videos, virtual event programming, and live streams, giving participants and viewers more information about subjects they care about. 

With the right approach and these best practices sharpened in your toolkit, you’ll avoid common pitfalls or content mishaps and instead design L3s that feel intentional, immersive, and true to your brand. 

Launch your next event with Vimeo.